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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

$5 days (daze?) at Lowry Park Zoo



We like to think of this blog as coffee talk between girlfriends, but it clearly has lots of people eavesdropping. The last time I passed on some free and cheap -- and also cool -- things to do, they all told me they had record attendance. So bear in mind, when something's a really good deal, you will have to adjust accordingly.

Elephant This Sunday has one of my favorite deals, $5 Day at the Lowry Park Zoo. If you haven't ever been to the zoo or haven't been in a long time, it's a must-see. Lots of exotic animals, from penguins to tigers to manatees, and a fun splash play area to make a hot summer day bearable (TIP: wear water shoes). Zoo spokeswoman Rachel Nelson tells me that the $5 days in January and May each drew 10,000 people. That's about three times the number of people you'd normally see on a Sunday at the zoo.

So weigh your options. The zoo normally costs $18.95 for adults, $14.50 kids ages 3 to 11. But once you get in for $5, there are rides or special experiences like a merry-go-round or riding a camel that cost extra, $1 to $4 each. There also is the new Gator Falls Flume Ride that promises a spray of water to cool you down on a hot day. Because it is new, expect the wait for that ride to be the longest.

You can get an unlimited-ride wristband for $18. What I have done is give each kid $5 and let them choose how to spend it. That usually ends up being one ride and one hand-feeding of a giraffe and then we move on to the exhibits. Even on a busy day like this you can see whatever you want, but prepare to be patient while waiting for the crowds to move on.

Parking is free but the lot fills up fast. Nelson said that while no one is turned away from the zoo, the parking lot does reach capacity and you will have to find parking elsewhere. We had to park several blocks away. It's best to arrive as early as possible to get the best parking. It wasn't so bad walking there, but on the return to the car we got one of those typical afternoon thunderstorms. That prompted the grumpier members of our party to say maybe it's worth it to pay full price sometimes.

As always, remember to bring your sunscreen, a hat and keep hydrated. And the park has a nice shady spot right at the front of the park should you want to sit with the kids or nurse a little one.

$5 Day is Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa. If you just can't make it to this one, $5 Day will roll around again on Sunday, Sept. 7. And other 20th Anniversary Recognition days at the zoo cost just $10 per person.

For those who are averse to crowds and want to beat the heat, Friday’s Nite Zoo might be more your speed. It’s full price for admission, but the rides are free from 5 to 8:30 p.m. You can’t bring any food or beverages into the zoo but you can receive a hand stamp for re-entry and picnic in one of the surrounding park areas.

-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne

[Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 10:55am]


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